Now that they’ve cooled off the hottest team in the major leagues, perhaps the Florida Marlins can stake a claim to that title.
One night after snapping Boston’s 12-game winning streak, the Marlins look to make it two in a row over the Red Sox as the teams continue their three-game weekend series Saturday.
The Marlins (35-41) have won four of their last five games, including a 5-2 victory over Boston in Friday night’s series opener. Florida is 24-10 since May 22, tied with the Minnesota Twins for the best record in baseball over that span.
“I think it was just great for us to go out here and just play good baseball,” said Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, who pitched seven strong innings to get the win. “We’re on the same playing field as a potential world championship team. We played hard in all aspects of the game.”
The win moved Florida past Philadelphia for second place in the NL East behind the New York Mets, who still own a 10 1/2 -game division lead.
Brian Moehler (5-6, 6.55 ERA) takes the mound for Florida looking to continue his recent success at home. The right-hander has won his last three starts at Dolphin Stadium while posting a 3.15 ERA and receiving an average of 9.45 runs in support.
Moehler fared less well on the road in his last outing, giving up six runs— five earned—in four innings of a 6-5 loss to the New York Yankees on June 23.
He is 4-3 with a 3.43 ERA in seven career starts against the Red Sox (48-29), who he has not faced since the 2000 season.
Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez, who went 3-for-4 with a two-run single in Friday’s defeat, is 8-for-17 (.471) with a homer and four doubles in his career versus Moehler.
The loss not only snapped Boston’s longest winning streak since 1995, but also spoiled the returns of third baseman Mike Lowell, shortstop Alex Gonzalez and starting pitcher Josh Beckett, all of whom left the Marlins for the Red Sox in the offseason.
Beckett isn’t scheduled to pitch in this series, but Lowell and Gonzalez each got a hit Friday, and received a standing ovation from the fans.
“It was as nice an ovation as I’ve ever gotten,” Lowell said. “I felt overwhelmed. I was humbled and appreciative. I’m glad Alex received the same type of ovation. I hope they can show some highlights of Josh Beckett and bring him out, too.”
Lowell and Gonzalez have anchored the left side of the infield for a stellar Boston defense, which set a new major league record Friday by playing error-free ball for the 17th consecutive game.
“The streak is nice,” said Lowell after the Red Sox fell to 14-2 in interleague play. “But I’d like to have won 13.”
Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (5-8, 3.86) looks to help get the Red Sox back on the winning track. Wakefield is riding a streak of six consecutive quality starts, and has lasted six innings or more in 11 straight outings.
The 39-year-old right-hander allowed three runs in six innings on Monday against Philadelphia, but did not receive a decision in Boston’s 8-7, 12-inning victory.
Wakefield is 2-3 with a 5.79 ERA in 10 career appearances, including six starts, against Florida.